This Black Friday will be different for DNA, and hopefully, many others. In August 2020, I got a Slack from Rob Scherzer, our Innovation & Digital Experience Director, asking if I could connect. Amid the pandemic and in the wake of the George Floyd murder and the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement, Rob wanted to share some information and the start of an idea. Many businesses were suffering from the COVID-19 outbreak. Still, along with the civil unrest, it became increasingly clear that Black-owned businesses were getting hit even harder. Rob believed DNA could help.
We saw that 40% of Black-owned businesses had gone out of business—outpacing White-owned businesses dramatically. We learned that even before the pandemic, eight out of every 10 Black businesses failed within the first 18 months. It was alarming. And it hurts everyone.
When Black businesses fail or underperform, it doesn’t just add to the racial wealth gap — it costs all Americans money. A McKinsey study found that if existing privately held Black-owned businesses had the same revenue averages as White-owned companies, it would pump an additional $200 billion into the economy. We recognized a simple truth: It’s not Black-owned businesses that are failing; it’s we who are failing Black-owned businesses.
That’s when Black Black Friday was born. The mission was to channel consumer spending toward Black-owned businesses, nurturing Black opportunity and celebrating culture. With time and resources scarce in 2020, we partnered with the students of VCU’s BrandCenter in Virginia to help bring the program to life. While they contributed some great design and additional thinking, it was too late and underdeveloped to come close to our big ambitions. Our 2020 efforts did spark meaningful conversations and drove some sales, but it wasn’t the significant initiative Black Black Friday truly deserved to be.
A year later, there was a significant change at our company. At the end of 2021, Alan Brown and I purchased the majority of shares of the agency, buying out one of the Founders and making DNA an LGBTQ+ and Black-owned business. I’m not going to lie; from that moment, things felt different. Alan and I were even more energized. We knew we had a unique opportunity within our industry. As a Gay man and a Black man, we were coming together to make our differences the difference in advertising and, on our best days, the world at large.
Through the outstanding work of our leadership team and employees, we repositioned the company around a brand ethos of Different Wins. We’ve assembled a super squad of diverse people and perspectives that does courageous work that breaks down barriers and makes brands famous. It’s not just words on a page. Our teams’ cognitive diversity and process have led to greater creativity, innovation, and faster problem-solving. It’s a strategic advantage for our clients.
Cut to 2023, the pandemic is over, but many businesses are still suffering. There are 1,065 black-owned businesses in the Seattle-Tacoma area, representing 1% of all businesses, while the Black population is 8%. If 8% of Seattle businesses were Black-owned, there would be 6,580 MORE Black-owned businesses. It was this year we decided to redouble our Black Black Friday efforts.
To get the initiative to the scale we all dreamed of, we needed additional help and support. We reached out to our longstanding client, BECU. We have worked with BECU for almost 20 years. We understand and share their values and dedication to strengthening our communities’ financial health. They graciously agreed to be a supporting sponsor of our effort. They also connected us with the Intentionalist—an online guide to intentional spending that supports small businesses and diverse local communities. We quickly realized they would be the perfect partner based on their mission, experience, and reach.
Our goals and plans were now starting to take shape. Generate at least $250,000 in revenue for Seattle’s Black-owned business during the holiday season. We would do this by promoting and selling a 20% discounted gift card from the Intentionalist, redeemable at hundreds of Black-owned businesses in the Puget Sound region—with the businesses receiving 100% of all sales. The program had the potential to be a movement, but with limited dollars, we needed to find a way to get the word out to everyone.
Having turned 25 years old this year, DNA has been around the Seattle market for a while and has some outstanding media partners. We decided to leverage our relationships and see who would be willing to donate media. Wow, did we underestimate the generosity that took place! Led by my business partner Alan, we captured over one million dollars in estimated media value with a potential of 50 million impressions. We are humbled and so appreciative of the support. The cherry on top is that Seattle’s mayor is making a City Proclamation that November 24, 2023, is Black Black Friday.
It’s incredible to see the program’s growth in just three years. DNA believes that to be different, you must be courageous, imaginative, and have no assumptions. This mindset permeates our agency, and powerful things can happen when you genuinely live your brand.
I’m looking forward to making this Black Friday, and maybe every Friday, Black Black Friday.